tv [untitled] June 10, 2012 10:00pm-10:30pm EDT
marching oral histories are a good way to get those. >> american artifacts visits his toric places through objects. in 1812, joshua barney, a retired naval hero of the revolutionary war, proposed creating a flotilla of american barges to defend the chesapeake bay area against british ships. in august 1814, commodore barney was forced to destroy and sink his fleet of about 15 vessels in maryland's patuxent river to prevent their capture. a single vessel, the suspected flagship scorpion, was discovered in 1979 under the river mud and partially excavated. river with mr. nayland to learn about the project and visited the navy's underwater archaeology lab in the washington navy yard where artifacts from the ship is
studied. >> this is the patuxent river, flows into the chesapeake bay. we'll go up river of the highway 4 bridge, and highway 4 is the actually very end of pennsylvania avenue. same pennsylvania avenue that runs from d.c. and runs up to the patuxent river. the scorpion is believed to be one mile, two miles up river from that bridge. so we're about 30 minutes from washington, d.c., 20, 25 minutes from a23457 police, maryland, and probably about 40 minutes from baltimore. in 1814, the river was deeper, perhaps wider as well. there's been a lot of sedimentation from agricultural runoff since 1814. at this time, you know, during the early 19th century and then this the 18th century, sea-going vessels were able to go very far
up river. sedimentation prevented that by the mid-19th century and by the early 20th century, mechanized agriculture, there was a great influx of sediment into the river. during the war of 1812, the chesapeake was pretty much undefended. the british had free reign into the bay, come into shore, loot plantations, villages, take what they wanted as well to punish the american citizens. joshua barney, a revolutionary war, naval war hero, proposed to with build a flying flotilla of warnings that would be able to defend the coast during the day, intercept the british landing parties and then at night hairy the british fleet. and he was given per miss and funds to do this. they were put under the department of the navy. since joshua barney was retired, and was no longer in the seniority system of the navy, he
was made a commodore of this float florida. this was somewhat under the navy but not under the navy. on his first voyage out, he ran into superior british ships who chased him up the patuxent river. he fought some retreating battles. at one point he was bottled up in st. leonard's creek and was able to fight his way out. he couldn't fight his way out of the way, he was forced to come further and further up river, retreating, the british forces building until he got so far up river. he couldn't get any further up river, and it was apparent that the british could capture his ships, so he was order by the secretary of the navy to abandon his ships, and when the british, you know, tried to take them to set them on fire, to explode them with gunpowder, which he
did, effectively, and it was at this point where we are now when the british guide came up river, that they could see the mast of barney's flotilla, and very soon afterwards they saw that the ships were on fire and heard the explosions from the powder that were set. they went further up river and found the fleet entirely scuttled except for one vessel that the fuse went out on. and they were able to capture this vessel and bring it down river with them. there was also a series of merchant vessels that had moved up river with barney's flotilla to try to avoid capture from the british, and these were also either scuttled, or the british themselves set them on fire and destroyed them. so the river was certainly deeper during that time period, but we also know it got very shallow up river where the flotilla was scuttled. they were taken up river as far as they could possibly go. there was some thought about trying to take them over land to
the south river, but it was decided that would be futile because the british in turn would bottle them up in the south river. they had gone so far up river, the deeper draft vessels, the scorpion, they were left as far up as they could go and even the more shallow draft barges, gun boats, were then -- could only go up river in single file with only a few feet of water. the buoy we see up there marks the wreck. >> okay. >> we are over the site of the shipwreck that we think could be the "uss scorpion, ""the flagship of the barney float florida. the bow is toward the bank just beyond the tree that has been sawn off. and the stern comes out into the channel a little more toward the red buoy you see here. the ship is 75 feet long, 20 feet wide, still principally decked throughout most of the wreck.
the bow and most of the ship seems to be in relatively good condition, considering it was scuttled with an explosive charge and possibly burned. the stern shows some damage, possibly from the blowing out of the scuttling charge. i'm the head of the underwater archaeology branch at naval and history command. we manage navy shipwrecks from continental navy, well, up through world war ii and then the korean war. i have worked on civil war shipwrecks, cumberland, and florida, down in hampton roads near for folk, virginia. perhaps the most significant wreck i've worked on is the confederate submarine h.l. hundley, and i was in charge of the excavation and recovery that have submarine. we found a crew of eight men. they were still inside the submarine, dealing with forensic analysis and identification and facial reconstruction of those individuals.
with the navy shipwrecks, we've worked on everything from the d-day shipwrecks off normandy beaches to a scuttled revolutionary war fleet up in penobscot river in maine. we're involved in the commemoration of the war of 1812, and we proposed to relocate and excavate the shipwreck site because it was probably one of the best known and best preserved of the navy's war of 1812 vessels. >> so you dive in the water here itself. what is it like to dive in the water that looks pretty hard to see through? >> like diving in pea soup. the visibility is not very good at all. the best it ever gets is a foot or two. it's, you know -- and it's hard to -- it is hard to measure and read tapes and work. you almost have to work by braille, by feel and touch. you can get used to it. if you're a underwater archaeologist and you've worked in black water, then you do get used to, you know, maneuvering around when you have very limited visibility and also you can, you know, determine what you are working on and what you are feeling by touch.
so your other senses kind of improve with time when you have low visibility. however, visibility here, even though it looks pretty bad, we have had times, up to a foot or two, and so we have been able to take some video of the wreck site as well and to see a little bit of what we're doing at times. anyway, this is what we proposed to do in 2013 in commemoration of the war of 1812, look at this shipwreck, which is really a time capsule from this time period, 1814. we know that when the ship was scuttled, most of the supplies, personal possessions of the crew and the officers were still on board. you know, barney took us -- joshua barney took about 400 sailors to help, you know, evacuate washington, burn the washington navy yard because they knew the british were probably coming toward washington and eventually meet
the british at the battle of bladensburg. a small contingency of 100 men were left to scuttle these ships and all supplies were left on board of them. once they were scuttled and after the british left, we know that salvagers came back from both the u.s. navy and private salvage, took come of the cannon off and some of the iron ball last. we also know that the things that were spoiled, personal possessions, food stores and stuff was left. barney himself pursued getting his sailors reimbursed for the loss of personal possessions. really what we expect to see from this is some of the foods, food stores that the sailors ate, the provisions, also we know that we found some surgeons' equipment, medical supplies, surgical scalpels, scissors and such. we expect there to be the personal effects of the crew which had help tell something about ethnicity, about who they were, what their economic status
was. one such artifact is a grog cup with the initials c.w. on it, believed to belong an african-american sailor named caesar wentworth. there were a number of african-american sailors serving in the flotilla. we also expect to see some of the weapons, if not the cannons that were recovered, and probably the shot, you know, for the guns and from that we'll be able to determine what sized guns they would have had on board. the things were principally armed with a cannon, a long gun and a shorter carronade for lobbing heavier shells into the enemy ships. they are very effective close-range weapons, which is what barney hoped to do in fight the british was to get in close enough where he could maneuver his ships with long sweeps or oars around around the british, who couldn't effectively move, and hammer at them with his long
guns and carronades. and we expect there to be quite a number of interesting objects. these will be presumably well preserved because of the water here in the patuxent river. everything has been below four or five foot of mud and in an anaerobic or oxygen-free environment. it's like being put in a deep freeze for many, many years where things are preserved well. the site was originally discovered in the late 1970s, early 1980s by don shomette and ralph eshelman. they nicknamed is turtle shell wreck they found a large turtle shell on the site. it had oral histories that suggested some of them had seen them in low water and fished over them. they put a wind coffer mill around the site and did some excavations on the site. they found some very significant artifacts. medical supplies, surgical equipment. weapons as well too, such as
small arms. also found a large chest, wooden chest, with the markings on it, the initials on it from a company from baltimore that had supplied equipment to the flotilla, so they're pretty certain this was indeed one of the flotilla vessels, and they believed it was the "uss scorpion," which is the flagship -- joshua barney's flag ship. particularly because of the medical and surgical supplies, thinking that the surgeon would be on the "scorpion." we came back in preparation for doing a major excavation in commemoration of 2010 and 2011, relocating the site and doing a series of test excavations. the artifacts that had been recovered from date, both from the recent excavations and the earlier excavations are kept at the washington navy ward in the underwater archaeology,
archaeology and conservation laboratory. things recently recovered are in need in conservation, are being preserved there. >> my name is george schwartz, and i'm an underwater archaeologist and conservator. the site was originally discovered in 1979, and it was -- it was excavated in the early 1980s by another group. and they recovered a large number of artifacts. basically what they did is they discovered the site, they mapped it and they recovered about 180 artifacts, and they were found to be in very good state of preservation. but they were conserved and put on display at a museum in maryland to commemorate barney's test fleet flotilla. what we have here, a collection of artifacts recovered in 2010 and 2011. right now they are all in storage solutions because essentially what we need to do
is keep the artifacts wet because if they dry out in an uncontrolled manner, they can deteriorate and essentially fall apart. we have organic materials, metal materials, sometimes a combination of both. ceramics and glass. each one is in its own particular solution so that it's well preserved until treatment can take place. treatment can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years, depending on the artifact and how corroded it is, how -- what the material is and how much damage has already been done to it. so this is a pharmaceutical vial that was recovered from the site, and you can see that it's intact still, but it has some corrosion on the inside. this artifact has not been conserved. it's in a storage solution right now, but this could have held
some type of medicine. some of the -- some of the vials that were recovered in the past actually still had a cork in it, so in those cases you can sample and try and figure out what was actually inside of it. this one did not have a cork. but we did take some samples to try and test and see if there was residual substance in the bottom. the next artifact i want to show you, still conserved, scissors. these are surgical scissors also from the hold of the vessel. this is in a storage solution of sodium hydroxide essentially to prevent any further corrosion until conservation is complete. what we see here, is a very well preserved scissors. can you see the details. it has a lot of diagnostic features in there. what we're trying to do is clean the surface so that we can possibly figure out who the manufacturer was. you can see the screws and other components are still in very good shape, and there is another example of a pair that has been conserved that we can take a look at. because there was the burial environment was anaerobic, not a lot of oxygen, not a lot of microbial impact because of the
sand that covered up the objects. because of this, and the fact that this is in brackish water, so there aren't as any chlorides or salts that can damage the artifacts that we'll find in other shipwrecks and marine environments, all of these kind of factors combine to preserve these artifacts, and so the idea here, is number one, to desalinate the artifacts and try to remove any remaining chloride because those can damage the artifact by drawing and crystaling and essentially damaging the integrity of the metal. preserve it, put it on display, study it and have it for the long term. the next artifact we have in this storage solution is a stoneware jug, and it's in very good shape, as you can see. it's complete. and it actually still has a cork in it, so, again, we can take samples, try and determine if there is residual substance at the bottom of the container, and then what we'll do is treat the stoneware jug and the cork individually and, again, try and -- the idea is to save as much information as we can from the actual artifact, fanned there are any kind of diagnostic features that might indicate who manufactured the artifact or where it came from, that all helps in sort of unraveling the story of where they got these materials.
this is actually a leather shoe. this is not contemporary. it's not early 19th century. this is something that is intrusive. it got into the -- into the site later in the century. but right now, it's in a storage solution of glycerin and formaldehyde and ethanol to essentially preserve it until it can be fully conserved. even though it's not from the early 19th century, we've recovered it, it's still an artifact and we'll treat it as such and preserve it. we'll find other items from later in the century.
it's -- you can see the wood is in very good shape, and it also has an iron shiv at the end. this was attached at the side of the vessel, at the bow, likely used to haul in the anchor and tie off the anchor and also to secure the rigging. and so this was actually still attached to the side of the -- at the bow, the starboard side. >> yeah.9sh well, this is something we usually don't recover in shipwrecks.
you know, there's some debate between a couple of us whether it's a spreader for some of the rigging or whether it's a cap head. i think it's a cap head, which would have been used to help in raising and lowering the anchor and keeping the anchor away from the side of the ship. our plans are for 2013, to build a steel or cofferdam around the site, pump the water out, remove the sediment and conduct the excavation as if it was a dry excavation on land. we can have more control with the archaeology by doing that, but it also presents us the opportunity to bring the public out to the site. they can see the ongoing excavation in progress and to ask questions and help with the whole interpretation of the war
of 1812 and help to perhaps make the american public more aware of the war of 1812 and the naval action that was part of that war. and i might mention, to, that this is only the second dry cofferdam done for an okay logical site in the united states. the previous example, that done in texas in matagorda bay of the 17th century french explorer lasalle, the vessel "lavalle" only the second time something like this has been done. the maryland state highway administration is our partner. they do cofferdams all the time. however they don't do them for archaeological sites, but for highway projects. the state highway administration has been in the lead with that as well. we think that -- that we will be able to put the steel cofferdam around the site, have six months to excavate the site, remove the cofferdam, rebury the wreck and take all of the information and data back and conservation and research and for the write-up and have things for the exhibit during 2014. while the excavation is still
going on. we also think with our partners, maryland national capital parks and planning, we know they will assist in bringing people out to the site, so we can have regular tours and business to the site, with docents explaining what is going on, what's been found and of course it will be changing almost daily with the excavation and more and more of the wreck exposed. >> this is pretty narrow up here, this section, eventually down in another mile or some of. >> we don't plan to extract the ship to recover a shipwreck. we can do that. but to conserve it is a very
long, drawn out process that can take decades. it can also be a very expensive process as well, too. so our plans are to, you know, document, recover the artifacts that can then be put on exhibit or studied, interpreted, to thoroughly map and document the shipwreck, to do some disassembly. we'll have to remove the deck to get into the interior parts of the shipwreck. we'll have to remove some interior planks to map the shape of the ship. so our plan is to do as little damage to the hull as possible but at the same time to do what's necessary to get a good, thorough recording of it. >> so when these were recovered in the early '80s, most of them recovered then, they were taken to a conservation laboratory in maryland, and they were -- and they were documented and conserved and then put on display. so you see a wide range of materials here from ceramics, apothecary bowls, dinner plate and a bowl. this is actually a tin grog cup from one of the -- one of the
sailors, and it's believed to be from one of the african-american sailors, caesar wentworth, and you can see the c.w. that's inscribed on the side of the grog cup. we don't have any smoking gun evidence that this is the "scorpion," but all of the clues put together sort of indicate it very well could be. then you have this dental tool. it was used to pull teeth. and then you have pieces of clay pipes and another pair of surgical scissors. >> why is it important from your perspective to preserve this boat under this muddy water here? what does it matter? >> well, part of our mission with naval history and heritage command is the education of bot/ the navy, the sailors and the american public as well. you know, this 200-year commemoration is a perfect time to do that, and call attention to in some ways a war that to many is kind of a forgotten war. it falls between the american revolution and the american
civil war, both of which i think people are more aware of than the war of 1812, but 1812 is one of the most important wars for the nation and for the navy as well, too. it certainly showed we were free of influence from great britain. we came out of the conflict, you know, at clear winners of that, and it also showed that -- that the united states needed a strong navy as well as a strong army, that it couldn't defend its coast without a strong navy, without seagoing ships, blue water ships. previously during the jefferson administration, you know, the concept had been to have a very small navy, small army, and not get engaged in european wars. this was, you know, a cost savings in some way, it certainly showed that this
philosophy was not able to defend the american coast, the chesapeake bay from a superior naval force such as that of great britain. >> some of the things you can't learn from archival records. a lot of the stuff that's written down in the historical record is the main events, the major people throughout history, but you don't always write down the simple things about how daily life was aboard an early 19th century naval vessel, for example. we can learn about the horrors of dentistry, for example, by looking at that dental tool and imagine having a tooth pulled by something like that. the surgical scissors, they had different types of scissors for different types of applications. the grog cup, you know, it's a very -- it says a lot about what they went through every day. having the -- they might have had a grog ration that they had once per day. there's a lot we can learn about ship construction that we don't already know. there's a lot about naval heritage that you can learn from recovering artifacts, conducting analysis and publishing, submitting the information. and the more knowledge there is and can be shared, that's better for humanity in general. >> the object was to come up as far up river as they can go and then travel over land to the
south river and escape into the bay and be saved. however, the british were coming up so fast behind them that they didn't have the ability to execute that planned and eventually they were scuttled. we only found one vessel, but the rest of the flotilla could be up here in the narrows of the river, under the land of the shoreline over here you see now. >> you can watch this or other american artifacts programs at any time by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. and watch "american artifacts" every sunday at 8:00 a.m., 7:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. on c-span 3.